Archive for February, 2010

Post office needs to call prison

February 23, 2010

Sidewalks at the post office in Lewes on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The rain and warmer temperatures are finishing the snow clearing job that has dominated lots of activity for the past couple of weeks.  People are commenting on seeing green grass. The days are growing longer. Birds are singing in the morning and I want to join them.  Come on Spring!

In Lewes, many people are concerned about the lack of snow shoveling at the Lewes Post Office on Front Street. As of this past weekend, the sidewalks around the post office, other than pathways leading from the street to the steps, were still impassable to pedestrians with more than a foot of dirty snow piled high on them.  Apparently the maintenance budget has been cut for the post office leaving few hours of work for clearing snow. Still, the post office is one of the busiest and most prominent buildings in downtown Lewes. There is ultimately no good excuse for not having the sidewalks cleared.  Given the tight auto traffic in the area and the amount of foot traffic leading to and from the facility at all hours of the day, having the sidewalks cleared should be a top priority.  It’s a real safety issue.

Are there alternatives to getting the job done?  Sure there are.  I’ve published two photographs here.  One shows the post office and its uncleared sidewalks last weekend.  The other, below, shows the sidewalks at the Savannah Road drawbridge in Lewes, at the same time, completely clear and dry.  The difference?  Prisoners.  It would have taken less than an hour of work by the prison team to clear the post office sidewalks while the prisoners were in town.  A well-placed phone call could put the post office on a list for future visits by the inmates.  It gives them more time out of their cells, allows them to be contributing members of society, clears our sidewalks and doesn’t contribute to budget problems.

Sidewalks at the drawbridge in Lewes on Sunday, Feb. 21.

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Snowstorms, wisdom, farmers, Comfort

February 16, 2010

This NASA image shows the mid-Atlantic area under a heavy blanket of snow following the weekend snowstorm of February 5 and 6, 2010.

“Snow is a poor man’s fertilizer.”

I heard that from Kenny Hopkins this week and am doing some research.  I’ll write about it my Barefootin’ column in the Cape Gazette on Friday. I’m always trying to collect wisdom along the path to knowledge and enlightenment.  If you have any weather-related wisdom to pass along, let me know and it may be included in the new book on wisdom I’m contemplating.

The photograph above is part of your hard-earned tax dollars at work. [Thanks Rob] Every day, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) posts its favorite photo of the day.  Satellites circling the earth record images from the planet that may seem relevant at the moment, whether it be a huge snowstorm blanketing the eastern half of the country,  a volcano simmering below the equator, or a way-aerial photo of Haiti after its tragic earthquake.

You can look at these special daily photos at this NASA link.

The photograph clearly articulates the distinctive Delmarva Peninsula tucked between Chesapeake and Delaware bays. Primarily rockless, flat and well-drained, Delmarva boasts some of the nation’s finest farm land. Given that, the snow covering the ground now is probably worth tens of millions of dollars.

I grabbed the photo below a few years ago when Nellie Lankford was making a cultural excursion to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  I figured one of these days the Navy hospital ship Comfort – which homeports in Baltimore – would be called into service somewhere around the world and I would be able to publish a photo showing people what it looks like.  The vessel recently steamed out of Baltimore and headed down the Chesapeake making its way to Haiti to help with the relief effort there.

U.S. Navy vessel Comfort at its pier in Baltimore before being called to Haiti.

Delaware Senate seat race won’t be nice

February 12, 2010

A Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee from Washington D.C.sent out this photograph of several Delaware officials, most of them Democrats, with a federal stimulus check to make the point that Republican Congressman Mike Castle, far left, is making political hay out of legislation that he did not support.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about what kind of tone will surround this year’s race for one of Delaware’s  U.S. Senate seats, consider this exchange that came in this week as press releases.  The first item came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington D.C.  It accompanied the photo above and also a six-minute clip from MSNBC showing on-air columnist Rachel Maddow reeling off example after example of Republican Senators and Congressman making political hay out of federal stimulus-supported projects in their home states and districts.

Here’s a transcript of the columnist’s comments as they pertained to Congressman Mike Castle who is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate.

“Republican Mike Castle of Delaware trashed the stimulus, voted no, then praised its effect in his home district by sending out press releases touting how imperative those funds were. You want to see Mike Castle of Delaware sending out one of those giant checks? As if he hadn’t voted to actually kill the money that’s in that check. Mike Castle is running for Senator from Delaware, now presumably on the platform of being a giant hypocrite.”

Castle wasted no time in responding to the attack.  Here’s the press release he sent out a day later and the headline accompanying it:

DELAWAREANS DESERVE THE TRUTH

Wilmington, DE — The Democratic National Committee continues to attempt to influence the race to fill Delaware’s seat in the United States Senate with negative attacks on Mike Castle.  They seem determined to wage a downbeat campaign and have made every effort to distort the truth, even before having a candidate.  Now that there are announced Democratic candidates, campaigns should be held to the highest standards.

“It is disappointing that there is an attempt to deceive people,” said Castle. He continued, “My record on the stimulus is clear and any attempt to distort the truth is for short-term political gain.  This campaign has to be about providing the state with an independent voice in the United States Senate to fight for Delaware families.  The bottom line is that while I disagreed with the size and scope of the bill – some federal money was allocated for programs that I have worked with the delegation to fund for many years – and I am not willing to send Delawarean’s tax dollars to other states.  Attacks on me are simply an effort to distract from the fact that we still do not have the full focus of Congress and the Administration on the economy, job growth and spending restraint.”

Mike Castle is dedicated to keeping this campaign about the facts. His position on the stimulus bill has been the same since Congress passed the bill one year ago.  He knows that Delawareans do not want to be a donor state by sending our tax dollars to other states.  The fact remains that this Congress and this Administration have not put the necessary focus on economic recovery, long-term job growth or limiting the deficit.

Castle on February 18, 2009 –   “I opposed HR 1, [the federal stimulus package] because the contents surpassed a targeted attempt at economic stabilization. It extended funds to projects far outside job creation and protecting people in need – many of which I believed should have gone through the standard Congressional review process. I remain concerned with the fact that every dollar in this bill is borrowed.  In fact, with interest, this stimulus package will add far more than $1 trillion to our already trillion dollar deficit.”

“However, the stimulus has now become law and I am hopeful that it will ease some of the economic challenges facing our state, and the nation. Delaware will certainly benefit from the assistance in the short term ……I remain committed to working with the Congressional Delegation and the Governor, to ensure that Delawareans receive the full benefit from this legislation.

“Looking forward, our focus in Congress, and in state government, must turn to long-term productivity growth – which must translate to research and development to drive innovation to create new, permanent jobs and industries.  I do hope this stimulus bill will meet many of our short-term needs, but a roadmap for driving our nation’s long-term economic success remains overdue.”

MEANWHILE, THE AG’S OFFICE CONTINUES TO DOG THE BRADLEY CASE

I remain highly impressed by the dedication and hours worked by the Attorney General’s office in Lewes to carefully review all of the records taken from the medical offices of Dr. Earl Bradley.  Below is a photograph I took Wednesday evening – snow still falling and wind still blowing – of the AG’s ad hoc office in Lewes where the records have been assembled for the review.  The lights are on, an official car sits outside, and people are inside working.  The picture was taken around 6:30 p.m.

The ad hoc office of Attorney General Beau Biden in Lewes on February 10, 2010.

Blizzards, Jeff Masters and global warming

February 10, 2010

The storms are causing lots of problems, but also lots of beauty. This scene is along the Sweetbriar Road between Route 9 and Cave Neck Road.

According to records I’ve seen since a previous blog about blizzards, it looks like the big blizzard I remember in Delaware’s Cape Region, prior to this week’s events, was on President’s Day weekend in 1979.  The big freeze must have been in the winter of 1977-78.  It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed since those events.  The state did a good job clearing the roads back then but not as good as with this storm.

The next largest storm I remember was a blizzard that rolled across Delmarva in 1958. I was eight at the time and living in Chestertown, Md.  That storm took out lots of telephone and electric poles and there were huge drifts across the countryside. Families moved in with families.  People made do.

It’s amazing how many of these major storms have come in the middle of February.

I found some statistical information on mid-Atlantic blizzards on Jeff Masters’ blog at WunderGround.com.  Masters is one of the founders of WunderGround, a great site for weather and all its related topics.  For anyone interested in global warming and strong discussions about it. Masters is passionate and learned on the subject and very scientific with his approach and sources.  His current blog, for example, explains why the dramatic weather events we’re having are not inconsistent with global warming claims. If you, like me, are confused by all of the global warming information, but vitally interested, Masters’ blogs will interest you. All of the storms I mentioned are in these lists somewhere.  Take a look.

Here’s some of  what Masters wrote in the current blog:

Updated: 5:23 PM GMT on February 08, 2010

A major new winter storm is headed east over the U.S. today, and threatens to dump a foot or more of snow on Philadelphia, New York City, and surrounding regions Tuesday and Wednesday. Philadelphia is still digging out from its second top-ten snowstorm of recorded history to hit the city this winter, and the streets are going to begin looking like canyons if this week’s snowstorm adds a significant amount of snow to the incredible 28.5″ that fell during “Snowmageddon” last Friday and Saturday. Philadelphia has had two snowstorms exceeding 23″ this winter. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the return period for a 22+ inch snow storm is once every 100 years–and we’ve had two 100-year snow storms in Philadelphia this winter. It is true that if the winter pattern of jet stream location, sea surface temperatures, etc, are suitable for a 100-year storm to form, that will increase the chances for a second such storm to occur that same year, and thus the odds have having two 100-year storms the same year are not 1 in 10,000. Still, the two huge snowstorms this winter in the Mid-Atlantic are definitely a very rare event one should see only once every few hundred years, and is something that has not occurred since modern records began in 1870. The situation is similar for Baltimore and Washington D.C. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the expected return period in the Washington D.C./Baltimore region for snowstorms with more than 16 inches of snow is about once every 25 years. This one-two punch of two major Nor’easters in one winter with 16+ inches of snow is unprecedented in the historical record for the region, which goes back to the late 1800s.

Top 9 snowstorms on record for Philadelphia:

1. 30.7″, Jan 7-8, 1996
2. 28.5″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
3. 23.2″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
4. 21.3″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 21.0″, Dec 25-26, 1909
6. 19.4″, Apr 3-4, 1915
7. 18.9″, Feb 12-14, 1899
8. 16.7″, Jan 22-24, 1935
9. 15.1″, Feb 28-Mar 1, 1941

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Baltimore:

1. 28.2″, Feb 15-18, 2003
2. 26.5″, Jan 27-29, 1922
3. 24.8″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
4. 22.8″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 22.5″, Jan 7-8, 1996
6. 22.0″, Mar 29-30, 1942
7. 21.4″, Feb 11-14, 1899
8. 21.0″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 20.0″, Feb 18-19, 1979
10. 16.0″, Mar 15-18, 1892

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0″, Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5″, Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7″, Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8″ Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1″, Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7″, Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6″, Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4″, Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4″, Feb 7, 1936

Heavy snow events–a contradiction to global warming theory?
Global warming skeptics regularly have a field day whenever a record snow storm pounds the U.S., claiming that such events are inconsistent with a globe that is warming. If the globe is warming, there should, on average, be fewer days when it snows, and thus fewer snow storms. However, it is possible that if climate change is simultaneously causing an increase in ratio of snowstorms with very heavy snow to storms with ordinary amounts of snow, we could actually see an increase in very heavy snowstorms in some portions of the world. There is evidence that this is happening for winter storms in the Northeast U.S.–the mighty Nor’easters like the “Snowmageddon” storm of February 5-6 and “Snowpocalypse” of December 19, 2009. Let’s take a look at the evidence. There are two requirements for a record snow storm:

1) A near-record amount of moisture in the air (or a very slow moving storm).
2) Temperatures cold enough for snow.

It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow. The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture. Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events–the ones most likely to cause flash flooding–will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970. This extra moisture in the air will tend to produce heavier snowstorms, assuming it is cold enough to snow. Groisman et al. (2004) found a 14% increase in heavy (top 5%) and 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events in the U.S. over the past 100 years, though mainly in spring and summer. However, the authors did find a significant increase in winter heavy precipitation events have occurred in the Northeast U.S. This was echoed by Changnon et al. (2006), who found, “The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.”

Here’s the link to the full text and art of the Masters blog referenced here.

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/article.html

A morning-after ride from Lewes to Milton

February 8, 2010

This homestead on Sweetbriar Road looks more like Canada than Sussex County in the aftermath of the weekend's blizzard.

Sunday morning.  People digging out. Blue skies overall.  Will snowy owls show this year?  The main roads and back roads from Lewes to Milton in exceptional shape considering the amount of snow we had.  DelDOT, town crews, electric crews, fire and emergency crews, neighbors – they’ve all done a great job.

The creek that feeds Red Mill Pond.

On the Sweetbriar Road we passed a Canada-proud homestead and then crossed the upper reaches of Red Mill Pond where it narrows into a creek.

Dirk Moore was jump-starting his shovel to being a long digging-out process.

Dirk Moore pauses.

His son Jonah stood on a ladder near the house and was steady working on clearing snow from the roof.  He only stopped long enough to show me a yardstick he had used to measure the snow in his front yard.  18 1/2 inches.  Almost a third his own height.

Jonah Moore eases the load on the roof of his family's house.

Up the road near the intersection with Cave Neck Road, Ray Oliver paused for a breather, his driveway clear, but three cars still blanketed by the storm’s handiwork.  Ray glowed with all the oxygen pumping through his arteries – the clean cold air and sunshine rushing through him and around him.

Ray Oliver takes a breather from shoveling.

We turned left on Cave Neck Road, rounding curves, crossing the upper reaches of Beaverdam Creek, craning our necks left and right to see what other great scenes the snow was creating.  Heading into Milton, the land begins to rise and fall with some roll and takes on a picturesque quality as it drains down to the Broadkill.  Small old buildings line the road as it parallels the river. They are surrounded by tall, dark pines.  Trees have always liked the Milton area. Lots of fertile soil, lots of fresh water. This snowfall will soak the ground even more than it already is.  A good year for planting new trees.

Kids were sledding near the John Milton statue overlooking Wagamon’s Pond and on the hill beneath the water tower.  They will get plenty of time to sled this week with schools closed.  Many neighborhoods are still socked in and it will be a while before they are passable for school buses.

Here are a few more pictures from Milton and the Blizzard of 2010.

An elegant dogwood and classic pines frame an old frame building on Cave Neck Road.

Mary and Roy Parker dig out their tractor on the lane to their home along Cave Neck Road.

The Milton water tower peaks through the branches of snow-laden branches surrounding a home on Milton's Chandler Street.

Mid-morning sun casts a glow around this Milton home on Federal Street and makes high branches glisten.

Sammy Argo uses his tractor to clear the concrete pad in front of the Milton fire hall. A real optimist posted one of the day's messages on the electronic sign.

As blizzard approaches, deputy AGs stay on task

February 5, 2010

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's ad hoc office in Lewes where deputy AGs are reviewing records to identify potential victims of Dr. Earl Bradley's alleged crimes against children.


At 1:43 p.m. Thursday, the National Weather  Service changed its Winter Storm Advisory to a Blizzard Warning.  In all my years of watching weather this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Blizzard Warning come up on the weather site. I well remember the blizzard of 1978 when a surprise coastal storm came up from the south, started as rain, and by mid-morning shifted to snow dumping a foot  on us in about two hours.  Heavy, drifting snow paralyzed the coast.  DelDOT trucks pulled off to the side of a road for a couple of hours while white-out conditions made it impossible for them to work.  Firetrucks had to be called into service to carry essential employees to Beebe.  The only people making it through the Sussex countryside were farmers in their big-wheeled tractors.

That blizzard came in the year following one of the worst freezes the area has ever seen, in the winter of 1977.  Rehoboth Bay froze from Dewey Beach to Long Neck. Daring people drove their cars across the ice and almost all of them made it to the other side; one faux-wood sided station wagon hit a soft spot and sank in shallow water.

The canal in Lewes froze solid with a foot of ice locking in crab dredgers who, up to that point, were having a phenomenal year.  The pilots brought a launch into the canal to try to break ice so the watermen could get back to work but the ice was simply too thick.  Around strong steaming cups of coffee the frustrated men talked about dynamiting the ice to get back to the beds of overwintering crabs.  Nothing worked though.  By the time the ice cleared, the icy water had killed most of the blue claws, bringing an end to that winter’s harvest.

As a single-digit temperature lock held the coast in a deep freeze, even the ocean and Delaware bay froze over for hundreds of yards out.  The pilots had to bring in helicopters to get back and forth from ships because Breakwater Harbor was frozen solid from the shoreline past the inner wall.

It will be interesting to see what the blizzard of 2010 brings.

Burning the midnight oil

I made the photograph above at 6:45 a.m. Friday morning. It shows an official unmarked state car parked outside and  lights burning inside Attorney General Beau Biden’s ad hoc Lewes office. Deputy AGs continue to pour over the records of Dr. Earl Bradley patients trying to identify victims in what is thought to be one of the nation’s largest-ever cases of criminal pedophilia, child rape and molestation.  Employees of the AG’s office are working extremely hard to make their way through thousands of records, attempting to match patients with images discovered on video recordings made, presumably, by Bradley in his complex of buildings on Route 1.

The number of people working on, and affected by this case, are likely to make it one of the most significant crimes in all of Delaware history.

Weather, ground hogs, the press and Beau

February 3, 2010

Phil spoke. No surprise. At least six more weeks of intense winter weather starting on Friday and Saturday. To the Beacon folks: way to go with spelling Punxsatawney!

Looks like another interesting weather system is coming our way.  As of this writing, the main question is whether the precipitation in our coastal area will fall as rain or snow. The Pennsylvania ground hog apparently was emphatic this year that we at least will have six more weeks of intense weather.  That doesn’t surprise anyone at this point.

Regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision to reverse the limits on corporate funding for elections, it’s time for the press to step up.  The most important thing out of all of this is to make sure that all contributions have to be accessible to the public.  Then we can see who is taking money from who which can certainly help in the candidate selection process. A strong press makes for a strong democracy.

Beau Biden made a good decision when he opted not to run for U.S. Senate.  He has a job to finish, the Bradley case will require intense attention, and he has plenty of time to season himself for higher office if that’s the direction he wants to go.  On the day his decision was announced, in the middle of the recent January thaw, I think I saw Beau and a couple of his compadres making their way up Savannah Road from downtown Lewes toward the Attorney general’s ad hoc office at the corner of Fourth and Savannah Road.  It was one of those days when the sun was out and the highs reached into the 50s. Dressed  just in shirt sleeves, Beau’s body language was relaxed and easy as he and the other guys walked and talked.  I think he was glad to have the weight of that decision off his shoulders. There was, no doubt, great pressure involved in the decision given the national picture, Beau’s status as son of Vice President Joe Biden, and his own position as the state’s highest profile Democrat among the younger generation.  On top of that he had just come home to his young family from a year overseas in Iraq. His final determination showed great maturity and a good sense of priorities.